White voice actors will no longer voice non-white characters on The Simpsons. Recently, we've been seeing a lot of changes in the entertainment industry amid calls for better representation in movies and television. Following the major cast shakeups of several other cartoon shows with white voice actors stepping down from playing black or mixed-race characters, it has been announced by the producers of The Simpsons that the long-running Fox series will be doing the same. "Moving forward, The Simpsons will no longer have white actors voice non-white characters," a statement from the producers reads.
Earlier this year, The Simpsons voice actor Hank Azaria had announced he was retiring from voicing Apu the Kwik-E-Mart owner following the backlash over having a white actor playing an Indian-American character. This week's news means that Azaria will also stop voicing characters like Homer's co-worker Carl Carlson and Lou the policeman, but it's not like he'll be going anywhere -- he'll still be doing voices for other fan favorites like Moe, Chief Wiggum, Comic Book Guy, Professor Frink, Disco Stu, and so many more. Other cast members, such as Dr. Julius Hibbert voice actor Harry Shearer, will also continue to voice Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, Ned Flanders, Kent Brockman, and a variety of others.
The controversy surrounding Apu dates back to 2017 with the release of comedian Hari Kondabolu's documentary The Problem With Apu. In the doc, Kondabolu suggests the creation of an Indian-American by white writers to be played by a white voice actor leads to an unfair stereotype of South Asians. Kondabolu also spoke with several Indian-Americans who addressed how the Apu character had made them uncomfortable over the years. Since 2017, Azaria had stopped voicing Apu as a result of the controversy, though the Kwik-E-Mart owner would continue to make sporadic appearances in the background. Now, Apu will be joined by many, many other characters looking for new voice actors.
Many other animated shows are taking similar steps with their voice acting casts. This week, Jenny Slate had revealed that she was stepping down as the voice of biracial teenager Molly in the Netflix series Big Mouth so that a Black actress could take on the role instead. Kristen Bell followed suit by having her voice role as another biracial character on Apple TV's Central Park recast as well, with producers announcing they were looking to cast a Black or mixed-race actress to replace her. Longtime Family Guy and The Cleveland Show voice actor Mike Henry also confirmed he will no longer voice Cleveland Brown, saying "it was an honor" to play the role.
Like Azaria and Shearer, the other Simpsons voice actors all voice so many different characters, so the long-running series isn't going to change too much. This will also provide some exciting opportunities for non-white voice actors to be a part of one of the most popular animated shows of all time, and the other recent recastings on other shows will help to benefit many others as well. This news comes to us from Entertainment Weekly.